US Navy Culinary Specialists work as part of a team in kitchens, dining areas, living quarters and food service storerooms aboard ships and onshore bases. Culinary Specialist Submarines (CSS) have the opportunity to serve aboard submarines.
CSSs receive extensive training in cooking, baking, dining, and living area management.
‘The cooks and the sonar gang worked out a genius system, with the Old Man’s approval.
‘Whenever we were steaming at periscope depth or slipping on batteries—and not on ops—sonar would notify the head cook. The head cook in our case was a miracle of a man: Jim Banneck. The man could make anything out of nothing. Never came up short. Always wowed everyone on the boat. Rumor was, the Old Man pulled solid gold strings to get him transferred to his command when he was assigned as CO.
‘Jim would take sonar’s intel, relay it to the Old Man, and the two of them would discuss menus options! Seriously. Menus options. Spices.
‘On one occasion sonar notified Jim that we were passing through snapping shrimp. Jim called the Old Man, we surfaced, the cook crew scurried out on deck, scooped up buckets full of shrimp, and presented the crew with Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Biscuits, Shrimp and Kelp Omlets, Shrimped Brioche, Shrimp Ceviche, Shrimp Lasagne—bearing in mind that this was a 66-person crew on a five meals per day rotation; so, the variety was much appreciated by all.’
‘On another occasion we caught a tuna and assorted other edibles that fed us through seven rotations. That’s 35 meals. 35.
‘Jim was a magician. I’m glad I had the opportunity to work with him. As the NFG, I washed dishes, took care of stores, prepped, tried to keep the galley clean enough to satisfy our very, very scrupulous Chief Corpsman (medic), and did whatever Big Jim told me to do.
‘As a newbie in sonar, I learned to relish opportunities to be a bit player in the conspiratorial drama that would deliver us all from the hell of canned food.
‘When I evolved to the level of shipmate, dolphins proudly displayed, Jim and I would talk about his love for cooking, his hope for painting satisfaction on the faces of his shipmates, his understanding of what it meant to be part of something bigger than himself.’
‘Jim Banneck was a big man—a very big man.
‘See you on the other side, Big Man.’
Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rex Nelson, Lt. Ed Early and Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Hana’lei Shimana / U.S. Navy
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